No change in Goliad school resource officer on campus

Sonny Long

March 11, 2013 at 7 p.m.
Updated March 10, 2013 at 10:11 p.m.

GOLIAD - Adelita Gonzalez feels safer at school with a law enforcement presence there.

"All I have to worry about is passing my tests, keeping in the top 10, not if I am going to be safe today or if I am going to be safe tomorrow," said the 15-year-old Goliad High School sophomore.

"I like seeing Paul San Miguel in our hallways. I have security. I have safety."

San Miguel has been on duty in the school district since January as a security guard and in late February was approved as the school resource officer - deputized through Constable Michael De La Garza - and began carrying a weapon.

County Commissioner Ted Long requested that the commissioners court rescind the Feb. 25 vote that approved the interlocal agreement between the county and school district establishing the SRO position.

"I agree that the school district needs an SRO," Long said. "All I want to do is get the interlocal agreement written properly."

Long cited several discrepancies in the agreement concerning county policies, including hiring practices and pay scales.

Monday's agenda item generated attention from the public with more than two dozen people in attendance - forcing the meeting to be moved from the commissioners courtroom to the district courtroom - many concerned that the SRO position would be eliminated if the interlocal agreement was rescinded.

Goliad High School Principal Emilio Vargas III addressed the court both as an administrator and a parent.

"The school district and the high school are in a much better position with an SRO on that campus. I can tell you we are safer with an SRO," he said.

Vargas reminded commissioners that the school district previously had an SRO in 2007.

"I'm not really sure what all the policy discrepancies are that are being alluded to, but what I am sure of is that we are better off having an SRO taking care of the safety and security of our campuses," he said.

"I am concerned that this position is being dealt with as a political football, and we are dealing with issues of politics when we should be dealing with the issue of the safety of our children."

Many of those in attendance clapped loudly when Vargas completed his remarks.

County Judge David Bowman banged his gavel.

"None of that!" he said.

Others in attendance agreed with Long that the interlocal agreement needed to be re-examined.

"I think the issue, as I understand it, is the content of the document. If we have a document that is flawed, we have an obligation to correct it," said Carrol Norrell-Garrison, retired director of the Goliad Special Education Cooperative. "If we have flaws in the document, there are liabilities connected. That's the issue - not whether or not we should have an SRO."

Commissioner Ron Bailey expressed concern that before the Feb. 25 meeting and the vote on the interlocal agreement, commissioners only had a few minutes to study the document.

"The main issue I have is that it was a hurry-up deal," Bailey said. "I did not have time to look at it. That's one of my major issues. There's an agreement there, but it needs work.

"Not one person here is against security for those kids."

The commissioners court took no action Monday on rescinding the previous vote on the interlocal agreement, but Bowman said he plans to work with school district administrators to make sure the right decisions are made concerning campus safety.

"Between now and the end of the school year, I think we need to look at it real closely and have discussions with the school district about what's best," said the county judge. "We have until the beginning of next school year to work out all the details."

Bowman also suggested that the school district could establish its own police force.

"Early on in the discussions with the school, I was led to believe there were several restrictions preventing them from establishing their own police department," Bowman said. "I have talked with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education and addressed those issues.

"I believe the school district administration and school board may have been misinformed about those restrictions."

Goliad resident Kenneth Buelter, who addressed the court, also mentioned that possibility.

"What I propose is that the school go first-rate with this because the school has far more resources than the county," Buelter said.

"The school has the opportunity to set itself up with a police department with three officers - one for each campus - and an in-house supervisor. They have that ability," he said.

Regardless of how it's done, Emilio Vargas Sr., a former Goliad County justice of the peace, said the children's safety is the No. 1 priority.

"I'm asking this commissioners court provide the security that's needed and to work together - the county, the school, the sheriff's department, the city, all of us - for the safety, security and well being and protection of our greatest natural resource: the children of the Goliad independent school district," the senior Vargas said.

"There's no sacrifice too great when it comes to the safety of our children."



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